-meter race, within a broader American cultural milieu about women’s health and sport, demonstrates how the media and sport governing bodies intersect with ideologies of femininity. In particular, the 800-meter race highlights a tension between progressive American ideologies about equality and liberty
M. Ann Hall
The argument presented here is that the sociological discourse of gender and sport, in other words the way the topic is approached, the assumptions surrounding its investigation, and the ways in which new knowledge is generated has been determined without sufficient recognition of its own ideological foundations. Gender, it is argued, is a major social and theoretical category that, along with social class, race, age, ethnicity, and others, must be incorporated into all theoretically based social analyses of sport. The paper reviews the development of the gender and sport discourse from its origins in social psychological research that focused on the supposed conflict between femininity and athleticism, to the more sophisticated yet functionalist notion of “sex roles” and its application to sport, and finally to the emerging feminist paradigm that is informed by a growing body of feminist social theory. The final section argues for a transformation of the gender and sport discourse toward a truly emancipatory one and provides some concrete suggestions as to how to bring this about.
Women’s bodybuilding manifestly challenges hegemonic understandings of the female body as weak, fragile, and limited. Because it has acquired characteristics that are traditionally deemed masculine, the muscular woman is thought to be in need of having her femininity “restored”. Perhaps for this reason, in bodybuilding competitions, female competitors are required to display femininity and implied heterosexuality on stage through their attitude, gestures, posing, make-up, hairstyle, and adornments. The aim of this study was to examine the experiences of competitors in the Bikini category to understand the ways in which they perceive and negotiate the expectations of idealized femininity within bodybuilding competitions. Semi-structured interviews, supplemented with ethnographic fieldwork, were conducted with nine female bodybuilding competitors. The data gathered indicated the contradictory views that some female bodybuilders hold of female muscularity and of femininity. The participants were able to negotiate the judging criteria, albeit at times reluctantly and with frequent expressions of criticism and disapproval.
Michela Musto and P.J. McGann
The apologetic strategies women employ to manage the cultural tension between athleticism and hegemonic femininity are well documented. Existing research, however, tends to be small-scale. The cumulative symbolic implications of female athlete appearance on cultural ideals remain under-theorized as a result. Our quantitative content analysis of a stratified, random sample of 4,799 collegiate women athletes’ roster photos examined whether sport, school type, and geographical location are related to gendered appearance. Despite important contextual variation, we found overwhelming homogeneity across settings. Our results suggest that the normalization of women’s athleticism is limited and depends on subordinated femininities. Thus, despite some positive changes, team sport still helps stabilize and naturalize the gender order.
The invention of the commercial sports bra in 1977 was a significant advancement for physically active women. Despite its humble origins as an enabling technology, the sports bra has since been invested with new and varied cultural meanings and currencies. In this article I critically read popular representations of sports bras, specifically advertisements and “iconic sports-bra moments” that circulate around Brandi Chastain’s celebration of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s victory in the 1999 World Cup. I argue that such representations sexualize sports bras and the women who wear them. In addition, these representations homogenize and normalize ideals of femininity, which are considered achievable through technologies of disciplined body management, and reproduce the traditional gender order.
This article documents the history of sport in independent girls’ schools in Sydney, Australia, from the introduction of compulsory education in 1880 until the formation of the Girls Secondary School Sports Union in 1922 to organize interschool sporting connections. While there have been many vigorous studies that have followed the history of sport in Australian independent boys’ schools, this has not been replicated in the role of sport in Australian independent girls’ schools. The Australian independent girls’ school sector, however, accounts for a significant portion of the total student population. This article demonstrates that sport was significant in Australian independent girls’ schools and became dominant to the education of middle class girls. Modeled after the English Public Schools that had embraced the educational ideology of ‘athleticism’, Australian girls’ independent schools also reinforced the ideology that sport was a part of a well-rounded education. By the early 1920s sport was part of the independent girls’ schools extracurricular accomplishments and the sporting landscape became a ‘public space’ where middle-class femininity was constructed.
By Pablo Scharagrodsky. Published in 2016 by Prometeo libros (354 pp., $22 USD , paperback) Mujeres en Movimiento is a magnificent historical tome centering on the problematization of sexual bodies and femininities in physical cultures in South America, with a particular focus on Argentina. The
Margaret S. Kelley and Maria J. Veri
Justine J. Reel, Katherine M. Jamieson, Sonya SooHoo and Diane L. Gill
Dancers, like other athletes and performers, are faced with the pressure to obtain a particular body shape and size that stems from varied etiological factors (e.g., personality characteristics, demands of the dance environment) (Robson, 2002). This study examined specific concerns for college dancers by utilizing quantitative and qualitative forms of inquiry. The purpose of the initial phase was to assess weight-related pressures, social physique anxiety, and disordered eating in college female modern dancers (N=107) using the Weight Pressure in Dance (Reel & Gill, 1996), Social Physique Anxiety Scale (Hart, Leary, & Rejeski, 1989), and The Eating Disorder Inventory (Garner, 1991). An overwhelming majority (76%) of the dancers reported pressures to lose weight with the most commonly cited stressor being the mirror followed by costumes, performance advantage, comparison to other dancers, and landing the best roles. The mean social physique anxiety score was moderate, but 35 dancers exhibited a high degree of social physique anxiety. In addition, the dancers had a lower tendency toward disordered eating compared to college females (Garner, 1991). The second phase of the study confirmed that modern dancers experience unique pressures. Through qualitative inquiry, the participants’ individualized experiences related to body image and the culture of modern dance could be shared.